seriousAt least 46 people have died and about 1,100 homes have been destroyed, officials said Saturday.
“The number of victims will surely increase in the coming hours.” said Chilean President Gabriel Boric Saturday.
Chile's Interior Minister Carolina Doha said 92 wildfires were currently burning in the center and south of the country and temperatures were unusually high this week.
The worst fires occurred in firesOfficials urged people not to come out of their homes so that fire engines, ambulances and other emergency vehicles could get through more easily.
Doha did not provide any details on those killed.
At least 8,000 hectares (19,770 acres) have burned since Friday near the towns of Quilpué and Villa Alemana, he said. One of the fires threatened the coastal resort town of Viña del Mar, where some neighborhoods were already badly affected.
In Villa Independencia, a hillside on the eastern edge of the city, many homes and businesses were completely destroyed. Burnt cars with broken windows lined the streets, covered in ash.
“I've been here 32 years and never thought this would happen,” said Rolando Fernandez, one of the residents who lost his home. He explained that he first saw the fire burning on a nearby hill on Friday afternoon. Within 15 minutes, the entire area was engulfed in flames and smoke.
“I've worked all my life and now I'm left with nothing,” Fernandez said.
Three shelters have been set up in the Valparaiso area, and 19 helicopters and more than 450 firefighters have been brought to the area to contain the fire, Doha said. Rescue teams are still struggling to reach the worst-hit areas, he said.
The fire is burning in hard-to-reach mountains and has affected precariously built-up neighborhoods on the edge of Viña del Mar.
Officials also said that there was a power outage due to the fire accident. In the Valparaiso region, four hospitals and three nursing homes for the elderly had to be evacuated, Doha said. The Home Minister said that the fire also destroyed two bus terminals.
The El Niño weather pattern has caused drought and hotter temperatures in western South America this year, increasing the risk of wildfires. In January, fires destroyed more than 42,000 acres of forest in Colombia following weeks of dry weather.